PD Editorial: Reject the idea that nothing can stop mass killings
What more can be said about this scourge on our nation that is mass murder?
What anguish or frustration can be expressed that wasn’t shared after June 12, 2016, when 49 people were massacred at an Orlando, Florida nightclub? Or April 16, 2007, when 33 were slain at Virginia Tech. Or on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 28 people, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut?
Now, another 58 people are dead, this time in Las Vegas in what has become the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. More than 500 others were wounded as a result of a single individual firing what appears to have been at least one automatic weapon from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay complex, mowing down people attending an open-air concert on the Las Vegas Strip below.
Those killed included Sonny Melton, the husband of Sebastopol native Heather Gulish Melton, who reportedly was shot in the back while carrying his wife to safety. A Sonoma State student was among those injured, while several other Sonoma County residents, including other SSU students, were among those who attended the country music festival.
What more can be said about this kind of horrific, cowardly assault?
It’s an important question to ask, but it’s also an important one to reject. Because it’s rooted in the temptation to believe that the debate may be over, that there is nothing more that can be done or said. Nonsense.
Although there are many details about this assault in Las Vegas that have yet to be disclosed - such as what kinds of weapons were used, how the assailant acquired them and what his motivation may have been - there is more that can be done and should be done. Plenty more. The question is whether Republican leaders, particularly those in Washington who control Congress, are really interested in making sure it does get done.
Some would have the public believe that elected leaders are prevented from strengthening regulations on the sale and use of guns, including automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and on ammunition because of Second Amendment restrictions. But that too is baloney. It’s that kind of argument that has prevented progress on modest but important measures such as requiring background checks on all gun sales including those sold at gun shows, a bipartisan bill authored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena. Polls show the public strongly supports stronger background checks, but the GOP leadership so far has blocked it. Instead, as today’s political cartoon points out, Republican leaders are going in the opposite direction - pushing legislation that would deregulate silencers.
Let’s be clear. The easing of restrictions on silencers isn’t about helping hunters. “This is about making more money for gun manufacturers,” Thompson said in response to Sunday’s attack. “Their sales are slumping. They need a new revenue stream.”
Instead of helping out gun manufacturers, Congress should focus on another of Thompson’s ideas - a resolution calling for the establishment of a Select Committee on Gun Violence. This would set the stage for a bipartisan discussion in Congress on how to prevent these kinds of massacres while still protecting Second Amendment rights.
Creating such a committee would be a good first step in showing the public that something can be done in the aftermath of these kinds of massacres, something that wasn’t accomplished after Orlando, or after Virginia Tech or after Sandy Hook. Something that can begin with a conversation by those from different political perspectives committed to a single proposition - that this madness needs to stop.